Never-Confirmed Medicare Chief Won't Say If He Wants Confirmation Hearing

By Christopher Goins | September 16, 2011 | 4:24pm EDT

Dr. Donald Berwick (Photo from Harvard University School of Public Health Web site)

( - His recess appointment will expire at the end of December, but Dr. Donald Berwick, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, isn't saying whether he would like the Senate to hold a confirmation hearing for him.

“My focus is on getting my job done now,” Berwick,  told Tuesday, when asked if he wanted a confirmation hearing.

“I’m busy every day. It’s a wonderful job. I just like coming to work every day and focusing on the tasks like this amazing campaign. Imagine what we are going to do. We are going to help prevent a million heart attacks in this country over the next few years. My focus is on the job I have right now,” he added.

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When followed up, Berwick said: “I just come to work every day doing exactly what I need to do which is work hard to try to make health care better all over the country, that's my focus.”

Berwick was nominated by President Obama on April 19, 2010 as the CMS administrator, where he oversees Medicare and Medicaid.

He was installed in office on July 7, 2010 after Obama gave him a recess appointment – without the Senate voting to confirm him.

In January 2011, Obama re-nominated Berwick to the position as head of the Medicare and Medicaid.

In March, 42 Republican senators asked for the nomination to be withdrawn.

“Don Berwick is a contentious choice to head an agency with a budget larger than the Defense Department’s and implement the vast majority of the $2.6 trillion health law,” said Sen. Orrin hatch (R-Utah), ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

“The White House’s handling of this nomination – failing to respond to repeated requests for information and circumventing the Senate through a recess appointment - has made Dr. Berwick’s confirmation next to impossible,” said Hatch.

“In the spirit of cooperation, the President should withdraw his nomination and choose a different candidate who has the support and confidence of the American people.”

Berwick’s recess appointment will technically end when the current session of the Senate ends.

According a spokeswoman for the Senate Finance Committee, no confirmation hearing has been scheduled to take place through Dec. 31--when the term is expected to be over.

A former Harvard professor, Berwick has publicly expressed his admiration for Britain's National Health Service--a socialist publicly funded health-care system.

As has reported, in a July 2008 speech to honor the 60th anniversary of the NHS, Berwick praised the NHS and urged Great Britain to reject free-market approaches to medicine.

He said: “You could have protected the wealthy and the well, instead of recognizing that sick people tend to be poorer and that poor people tend to be sicker. Any healthcare funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized, and humane must--must--redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition redistributional. Britain, you chose well.”

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